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Thank you for Considering Our Marriage & Family Therapy Master’s Program

Thank you for your interest in the Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy at The Family Institute. The program is offered through The Graduate School and is an important part of Northwestern’s Center for Applied Psychological & Family Studies. The program is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE). Regarded as one of the nation's leading programs of its kind, the program attracts a talented and diverse cohort of students from around the world. 

Your Learning Experience

As a student, you will enjoy a unique educational experience, training with expert therapists in an experiential learning environment. Your learning experience will give you the knowledge and skills you need for a career in strengthening and healing families from all walks of life. 

What You Will Earn

You will earn a Master of Science degree from Northwestern University that combines innovative teaching and pioneering research in a highly collaborative environment that fosters clinical excellence. As a graduate, you will be able to conduct therapy with a variety of populations and types of problems, utilize the Integrative Systemic Therapy framework to integrate knowledge from the field into your practice and demonstrate multi-cultural sensitivity and ethical competence in your work.

If you are looking for an education that is rooted in evidence-based practice and hands-on experience, then you have found your home here at our Marriage and Family Therapy Master’s program.

Get to Know Our Marriage & Family Therapy Master's Program
Using Science to Guide Practice: Marriage & Family Therapy

With an emphasis on the scientist-practitioner model that uses science to guide clinical practice, students are taught to evaluate and apply relevant empirical research and assess effectiveness of therapy using valid and reliable measures.

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Challenging & Rewarding Passion: The training cycle of a Marriage and Family Therapist

The message of our program is clear: we have a passion for relational therapy and recruit and train talented applicants who can share that passion, too. 

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Preparing for the Future: Values of the Marriage & Family Therapy program

Launched in 1990, we are one of the leading programs of its kind. Every year, our program attracts a national and international cohort of talented and diverse students who choose our program to train with nationally recognized practicing clinicians.

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100% of Our Graduates Land a Career

Quality Training

We offer a unique combination of classroom hours integrated with extensive, supervised client work early in the program. The COAMFTE requirement that students complete intensive clinical training as part of their graduate studies provides our graduates a decided advantage when seeking employment. Having completed six quarters of clinical work with clients and over 250 hours of clinical supervision, you will be a highly sought-after candidate and well prepared when entering the field.

Career & Alumni Support

We provide focused career seeking resources in conjunction with Northwestern Career Advancement. Additionally, our Alumni Advisory Board hosts an annual Career Guidance Night, which provides an opportunity for students to learn directly from the experiences of our alumni who are working in the field. 

And perhaps it goes without saying, the national prestige of Northwestern University and The Family Institute give our graduates a mark of distinction in any job market.

Where Our Graduates Make a Difference

  • University settings as professors
  • Community mental health centers
  • Family counseling centers
  • Private practice
  • A variety of specialty treatment programs and clinics (such as eating disorders, chemical dependency)
  • Hospitals (working in inpatient or outpatient settings)
  • Residential schools (working with children and families)
  • Family business consultation practices
  • Hospice programs
  • Administration of mental health programs
  • Integrated health care settings
  • Human Resources or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
10 Reasons Our Program is the Best

1. The Family Institute is World Renowned for Behavioral Health 

The Family Institute at Northwestern University brings together the right partners to support children, adults, couples and families across the lifespan. As researchers, educators and therapists, we work with our clients and PARTNER TO SEE CHANGE.

We are at the forefront of important clinical research and family therapy education. 

  • We provide more than than 60,000 hours of therapy annually
  • Engage in important clinical research 
  • Are at the forefront of family therapy education
  • Have a state-of-the-art 26,000 square-foot facility with 10 interviewing suites equipped with two-way mirrors and videotaping capability where students conduct therapy under the helpful eye of their supervisors and make recordings of their interviews for later supervision

2. Receive a Northwestern University Degree

Perennially ranked as a Top 15 University, Northwestern University offers top shelf education and delivers a brand name that carries its graduates throughout their career. Northwestern University is a:

  • Major research institution with extraordinary facilities
  • Member of the Big Ten Conference that plays host to many intercollegiate athletic events
  • Beautiful campus located on the shores of Lake Michigan

3. Learn in a Culturally Diverse City

Our classes are held on the Northwestern University campus, located in the thriving suburb of Evanston, Illinois and is a short train ride from downtown Chicago. The rich diversity of the population of metropolitan Chicago assures that students will work with clients from a multitude of backgrounds and who present with a wide range of problems.

4. Learn from Nationally-Known Therapists at The Family Institute

Our faculty are among the leaders in the field. Three sit on the editorial board of family therapy's premier journal, Family Process. Several hold or have held positions of leadership in organizations such as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the American Family Therapy Academy and the American Psychological Association. The faculty have made seminal contributions to the literature. All of the faculty are practicing therapists who bring a wealth of current experience to the classroom.

5. Learn From an Accredited Program

The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE) accredits the Program. Students who graduate from an accredited  program have fulfilled all graduation requirements for licensure in most of the 50 states. The COAMFTE requirement that students graduate with at least 400 hours of direct client contact gives our graduates extensive training and a decided advantage when seeking employment.

6. Learn Our Cutting Edge Therapy Approach

Our systemic approach to therapy is grounded in the concept of integration: that the models of therapy are best utilized in a planful and collaborative manner that identifies interventions to fit the specific needs of each client system. Integrative Systemic Therapy, pioneered at The Family Institute, addresses emotional, behavioral and relational problems in the context of both familial and extrafamilial relationships. The influences of biology, psychodynamics, life cycle, gender, culture, equity and inclusion are used to understand and intervene with the issues clients bring to therapy.

Learn more about our Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) publications, that outlines our approach.

7. Collaborate & Network with Students & Alumni

With students applying competitively from across the country, our faculty have the pleasure of teaching a talented, diverse and academically advanced group of students. This environment leads to a challenging, enlightening and rewarding exchange of ideas between students and faculty. Through our alumni, graduates network, support the program, and receive discounts on Family Institute-sponsored professional education CEUs.

8. Practice Your Skills Within Our Community

The clinical component of our training program takes place at our Bette D. Harris Child and Family Clinic. The client population is highly diverse and represents many of the problems and populations family therapists will encounter beyond graduate school. The Clinic has four client sites and all have two-way mirrors and recording equipment. To further train our students and assist those who need help, we recently launched Project Strengthen, where a student is paired with a staff therapist to help meet the demand of high quality care to underserved individuals and families who suffer from multiple mental health disorders (such as anxiety and substance abuse) alongside socio-economic and cultural barriers to much-needed care.

9. Receive Supervision & Feedback to Hone Your Therapy Skills

Students receive an extensive amount of supervision – more than double the number of hours required for accreditation. Supervision occurs in two formats: three-hour supervision groups with a small supervisee/supervisor ratio of 4:1 and individual supervision. Supervisory methods include live supervision (supervisor observes from behind a two-way mirror), videotape, audiotape and case consultation. Group supervisors are highly experienced and all are practicing clinicians, themselves. Supervisors must be either designated as "Approved Supervisors" of AAMFT or hold equivalent credentials.

10. Be Involved in Research

Although therapy will always be a blend of science and art, our approach to therapy is based on the 21st century call to ground practice in scientifically proven methods. To prepare our students for this, we teach them to be consumers of research; to know how to access, assess, and apply this research directly in their clinical work. In addition, The Family Institute has a number of productive research teams working on a variety of projects. Interested students may be able to join one of these research teams as opportunities are available and participate as a volunteer research assistant in conducting high-quality empirical research.

When I chose to enroll in the Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy program through The Family Institute at Northwestern University in 2012, I knew that it would be my greatest professional investment. I quickly realized it would also be my greatest life decision. The curriculum is beautifully designed, and Northwestern's quarter system ensures that classes are fast-paced, focused and challenging. My experience in the program has allowed me to achieve both professional and personal success, and I am forever grateful for that.

Ryan M. Earl, Ph.D.
MSMFT Class of 2014
Our Mission


The mission of the Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy (MSMFT) Program at Northwestern University is to educate students to become knowledgeable, competent, systemic, culturally sensitive, ethical, and empirically‐informed Marriage and Family Therapists. Graduates of the program are expected to exhibit a beginning level of competence with a variety of presenting problems, utilize the Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) framework to integrate knowledge from the field into practice, demonstrate multi‐cultural sensitivity and ethical competence in their work, and have an appreciation for research, particularly research on family relationships and the process and outcome of therapy. With further education and experience, graduates of the program will go on to become outstanding practitioners and future leaders in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy. The program’s mission is embedded in that of The Family Institute (to strengthen and heal families and individuals from all walks of life through clinical services, education, and research) and Northwestern University (excellent teaching, innovative research, and the personal and intellectual growth of its students). Accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), the program reflects the Professional Marriage and Family Therapy Principles and COAMFT’s Developmental Competency Components (DCCs).

Outcome-Based Education Framework

The MSMFT Program is accredited by the Commission on Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE).  Consistent with its accreditation, the program maintains an Outcome-Based Education Framework where the focus is on advancing program quality through ongoing assessment of graduate achievement, student achievement, and environmental supports to the program. Student achievement involves the development of specific competencies specified by the program goals, the student learning outcomes, and associated benchmarks. Communities of interest, identified by the program, provide input into the review of student learning outcomes and key environment supports to the program. The communities of interest are informed about key changes that derive from the review process.

Our Goals & Associated Student Learning Outcomes

Train entry-level Marriage and Family Therapists who are knowledgeable, systemic, integrative and empirically-informed

  • Foundational knowledge base
    Outcome: Students will become knowledgeable of the core concepts, common factors, and major models of marriage and family therapy.

  • Integration of concepts, models and techniques
    Outcome: Students will learn to utilize a systemic, integrative and empirically informed approach to planning and staging therapy.

  • Integration of research
    Outcome: Students will learn to be critical consumers of research, incorporate research findings into their clinical practice, and utilize progress research data to make informed clinical decisions.

Train competent entry-level therapists who are informed by a multicultural perspective and awareness of self

  • Clinical competence
    Outcome: Students will develop a strong beginning level professional competence in the conduct of systemically-oriented family, couple and individual therapy.

  • Diversity and multicultural sensitivity
    Outcome: Students' clinical work will incorporate multicultural sensitivity and respect for diversity across a range of cultural contexts including race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

  • Development of the self of the therapist
    Outcome: Students will develop awareness of their own reactions to clients and clinical responsibilities and develop means of managing their reactions and using them, when appropriate, in the context of therapy.

Graduates achieve identity as Marriage and Family Therapists and observe the AAMFT code of professional ethics

  • Professional identity as marriage and family therapist
    Outcome: Students will clearly identify themselves with the profession of Marriage and Family Therapy.

  • Professional and ethical conduct
    Outcome: Students will develop an understanding of legal and ethical standards and demonstrate the ability and commitment to apply them in the professional practice of Marriage and Family Therapy.